Allahabad High Court Mandates Police Checks for Lawyer Licenses

In a recent ruling, the Allahabad High Court emphasized the importance of scrutinizing the criminal background of individuals applying for a license to practice law. The court took action after a concerning incident where a person with a history of fourteen criminal cases, including four convictions, managed to obtain a license to practice as a lawyer. The court’s directive involves incorporating a police report as part of the evaluation process for aspiring lawyers.

The division bench, comprising Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh and Justice Vinod Diwakar, expressed concern about the lax procedures that allowed an individual with a significant criminal record to enter the legal profession unnoticed. In response, the court instructed the Uttar Pradesh government and the State Bar Council to implement a thorough due diligence process.

The court’s order specifies that a police report should be solicited from relevant police stations for both pending and new applications for a law license. Drawing parallels with the process of obtaining passports, the court suggests that a provisional license can be issued while awaiting the police report. If the subsequent report reveals adverse information, the provisional license can be revoked.

This legal development unfolded during the court’s consideration of a petition that highlighted the case of an individual with fourteen pending criminal cases, four of which resulted in convictions. The petitioner raised concerns about the person securing a law license by concealing this criminal history. The court, noting the urgency of the matter, directed the State Bar Council to expedite disciplinary proceedings, ideally concluding within three months.

The court stressed the potential harm to society and the legal community if individuals with criminal backgrounds are allowed to practice law unchecked. It cited the Advocates Act, emphasizing its prohibition against admitting individuals with such histories to the legal profession. The court expressed surprise at the lack of a robust procedure within the Bar Council to enforce its own rules, highlighting the need for the council to evolve measures for rigorous background checks.

The judges underscored the obligation of applicants to disclose any criminal charges or convictions during the application process. Failure to provide such information could result in the rejection of the application. The court questioned the apparent absence of a well-defined procedure within the Bar Council to ensure compliance with these principles.

In conclusion, the Allahabad High Court’s directive serves as a crucial step towards ensuring that the legal profession remains free from individuals with a questionable criminal history. By mandating the inclusion of a police report in the licensing process and emphasizing timely disciplinary proceedings, the court aims to fortify the integrity of the legal fraternity in Uttar Pradesh. The State Bar Council has been urged to implement these measures promptly to safeguard the reputation of the legal profession and protect the interests of society at large.

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